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21 July 1999
REPORT OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL ON THE
UNITED NATIONS INTERIM FORCE IN LEBANON
(for the period from 16 January 1999 to 15 July 1999)
1. The present report is submitted in pursuance of Security Council resolution 1223 (1999) of 28 January 1999, by which the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for a further period of six months, until 31 July 1999. It covers developments since the previous report, dated 19 January 1999 (S/1999/61).
II. SITUATION IN THE AREA OF OPERATION
2. The period under review was marked by increased fighting between the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and its local Lebanese auxiliary, the de facto forces (DFF), on the one hand, and armed elements who have proclaimed their resistance against the Israeli occupation, on the other. The hostilities reached their peak on 24 June with Israeli air raids against civilian targets in Lebanon and rocket fire by armed elements into northern Israel.
3. A significant development was the withdrawal of the DFF from Jezzin at the end of May and in the first days of June and its return under the full control of the Lebanese authorities, thereby reducing the area under Israeli control for the first time since 1985. In the area of operation of UNIFIL, however, the situation became more volatile. The armed elements became more assertive and showed an increasing tendency to operate in the vicinity of villages and UNIFIL positions. The DFF showed signs of loosened control and in some cases vented their apparent frustration by firing into villages and targeting UNIFIL positions. By the fourth week of June, UNIFIL warned publicly that the situation threatened to spin out of control.
4. That week began with the wounding of two civilians in Qabrikha by IDF on 20 June. The same day, a civilian was wounded in an Israeli air raid near Yatar. Later that day, Hizbullah shelled IDF positions on the border and one artillery round impacted on Israeli territory. On 22 June, a civilian was killed and two others were wounded near Markabe by a roadside bomb detonated by armed elements. On 23 and 24 June, three civilians were injured in Qabrikha by IDF/DFF fire against armed elements who had fired from the vicinity of the village at an IDF/DFF position. Hizballah responded on 24 June with rocket fire into northern Israel; seven Israeli civilians were treated for minor injuries or shock. Later that night, the Israeli air force attacked targets in Baalbek, power stations near Sidon and Beirut, a telephone relay station near Beirut and five bridges along the coastal road between Sidon and Beirut. Ten Lebanese civilians were killed and 50 wounded in these air raids. In retaliation, Hizbullah fired rockets into northern Israel, killing two civilians in Qiryat Shemona. I issued a statement calling upon the parties concerned not to target civilians and to cooperate with UNIFIL, which was in touch with them in an effort to contain the conflict. The situation calmed down the next day, and the level of activity has since been relatively low.
5. These events were preceded by other exchanges, both within and outside the area of operation of UNIFIL. On 3 May, an Israeli soldier was killed by a roadside bomb near Al Bayyadah (north of Naqoura). The next day, the Israeli air force carried out air raids against targets in Baalbek, injuring five civilians. On 6 May, armed elements responded by shelling Israeli positions on the border; one round impacted in northern Israel, injuring a civilian. On 12 May, a civilian was killed and four others were wounded in Houle by mortar rounds fired by armed elements. The same day, two armed elements were killed in Majdal Silm by rockets fired by Israeli aircraft. On 13 May, armed elements detonated a roadside bomb in the Jezzin area, killing a member of the DFF and three civilians riding with him in his car. On 17 May, two civilians were killed in Zawtar by IDF/DFF shelling. The next day, armed elements fired a number of rockets into northern Israel, injuring three civilians.
6. During the past six months, UNIFIL recorded 359 operations conducted by armed elements against IDF/DFF (22 in the second half of January, 75 in February, 65 in March, 50 in April, 64 in May, 73 in June and 10 in the first half of July). The number of operations almost equals the high reached in the last reporting period. There were also reports of some 200 operations north of the Litani river. The vast majority were carried out by the Islamic Resistance, the military wing of the Shiite Muslim Hizbullah organization. The Shiite movement Amal took responsibility for some 20 operations; a few were attributed to other Lebanese groups. The armed elements employed small arms, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles, recoilless rifles, rockets, artillery and explosive devices. They fired some 3,700 rounds of mortar, artillery, rockets and anti-tank missiles, as compared to about 3,000 rounds in the previous reporting period.
7. IDF/DFF, in response to attacks or in operations they initiated, employed artillery, mortars, tanks, helicopter gunships, fixed-wing aircraft and explosive devices. UNIFIL recorded over 15,000 rounds of artillery, mortar, tanks and missiles fired by IDF/DFF. IDF continued its practice of conducting pre-emptive artillery bombardments and air raids. As before, the Israeli navy patrolled Lebanese territorial waters in the south and continued to impose restrictions on local fishermen.
8. In the area where it is deployed, UNIFIL continued its efforts to limit the conflict and to protect the inhabitants from the fighting. Through its network of checkpoints and observation posts, an active programme of patrolling, and continuous contacts with the parties, the Force did its best efforts to limit hostilities. UNIFIL troops were also deployed, as necessary, to provide a measure of protection to villages and to farmers working in the fields (altogether 113 harvest patrol and escorts were provided). Nevertheless, civilians were again killed or injured. Six civilians were wounded in Majdal Silm on 6 February as a result of IDF/DFF fire. On 13 March, two civilians were wounded in Haddathah by IDF/DFF fire. On 15 May, two civilians were injured in Haddathah by IDF/DFF fire. On 27 and 31 May, one civilian each was injured near Tibnin and Tulin respectively by IDF/DFF fire. These civilian casualties occurred in addition to those mentioned in paragraphs 4 and 5 above.
9. Within the Israeli-controlled area (ICA), Israel continued to maintain a civil administration and security service. The infrastructure in ICA (road system, electricity, water supply, public buildings) continued to be improved with funds provided by the Government of Lebanon. However, ICA remained economically dependent on Israel, where more than 2,500 of the inhabitants go to work every day.
10. IDF/DFF continued to conduct search operations in several villages in ICA and, from time to time, restricted the movement of the inhabitants, especially after defections from the DFF. A number of persons were arrested and imprisoned in Khiam, while others were expelled from their villages and ordered to leave ICA.
11. In performing its tasks, the Force at times encountered hostile reactions from both sides; there were six incidents in which United Nations personnel were threatened, sometimes at gunpoint, and harassed (five incidents by armed elements and one by DFF members). For example, on 15 May, in the Ghanaian battalion sector, Hizbullah members blocked United Nations vehicles and fired close to them. These incidents were strongly protested to the authorities concerned.
12. UNIFIL itself was targeted on several occasions. On 31 May, an Irish soldier was killed and two were wounded by a mortar round fired by IDF/DFF at a United Nations position near Brashit. On 10 June, IDF/DFF fired a mortar round at a United Nations position near Haddathah, fortunately causing only damage. On 21 June, IDF/DFF fired a tank round at a United Nations camp in Tibnin; the round hit a shelter, which protected the soldiers who had sought cover in it. There were also several incidents of harassing fire by IDF/DFF. The United Nations strongly protested these incidents to the Israeli authorities, urging them to tighten control over the personnel in the area. On 15 June, a United Nations armoured personnel carrier was damaged near Buyut as-Sayyid by a mine, which unidentified elements had placed on a track regularly used by UNIFIL patrols.
13. In July 1996, UNIFIL obtained a commitment from IDF to respect a safety zone around UNIFIL positions and received assurances from the Islamic Resistance that they would not operate in the vicinity of UNIFIL positions. Regrettably, during the tense periods described above, these commitments were frequently broken by the personnel of both sides. The number of firings at or close to United Nations positions and personnel was almost double that of the last reporting period, totalling 180 (111 by IDF/DFF, 56 by armed elements and 13 unattributable). The United Nations strongly protested these incidents to the authorities concerned.
14. UNIFIL continued to assist the civilian population in the form of medical care, harvest patrols, water projects, equipment or services for schools and orphanages, and supplies to social services and needy people. Such assistance was provided from resources made available by troop-contributing countries. UNIFIL medical centres and mobile teams provided care to an average of 5,000 civilian patients per month and a field dental programme treated approximately 200 cases per month. UNIFIL also assisted the Government of Lebanon in transporting and distributing supplies to villages in ICA when they faced shortages owing to restrictions imposed by IDF/DFF. UNIFIL cooperated closely on humanitarian matters with the Lebanese authorities, United Nations agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other organizations and agencies operating in Lebanon.
15. As in the past, UNIFIL continued the disposal of unexploded ordnance in its area of operation. In all, 117 controlled explosions were carried out.
16. The monitoring group set up in accordance with the understanding of 26 April 1996 held 15 meetings at UNIFIL headquarters to consider complaints by Israel and Lebanon. UNIFIL provided facilities for the meetings as well as transport for the members of the group.
III. ORGANIZATIONAL MATTERS
17. As of June 1999, UNIFIL comprised 4,495 troops, from Fiji (595), Finland (494), France (246), Ghana (650), India (619), Ireland (608), Italy (46), Nepal (601) and Poland (636). UNIFIL was assisted in its tasks by 51 military observers of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). In addition, UNIFIL employed 460 civilian staff, of whom 116 were recruited internationally and 344 locally. Major-General Jioji Konousi Konrote continued as Force Commander. The deployment of UNIFIL is shown on the attached map.
18. I regret to report the death of five members of the Force. As mentioned in paragraph 12 above, an Irish soldier was killed by IDF/DFF fire on 31 May. Another Irish soldier died owing to the accidental discharge of a service rifle. A Fijian soldier, an Indian soldier and a Ghanaian soldier died of natural causes. Since the establishment of UNIFIL, 227 members of the Force have lost their lives: 77 as a result of firings or bomb explosions, 93 in accidents and 57 from other causes. A total of 338 were wounded by firing, or by mine or bomb explosions.
19. UNIFIL maintained close contact with the Lebanese authorities on matters of mutual concern. Those authorities provided valuable assistance in connection with the rotation of troops and logistic activities in Beirut. At times, the Lebanese army was helpful in defusing confrontations with armed elements. It also provided accommodation for some UNIFIL contingents while on leave in Lebanon. The Force continued to cooperate with the Lebanese Internal Security Forces on matters pertaining to the maintenance of law and order.
20. The problem of the rents owed by the Government of Lebanon to the owners of the land and premises used by UNIFIL has still not been resolved. Not all owners have received payment and there is continuing controversy over the lists of owners prepared by the Lebanese authorities.
IV. FINANCIAL MATTERS
21. The General Assembly, by its resolution 53/227 of 8 June 1999, appropriated to the Special Account for UNIFIL an amount of US$ 148.9 million gross, equivalent to a monthly rate of $12.4 million gross, for the maintenance of the Force for the period from 1 July 1999 to 30 June 2000. Therefore, should the Security Council decide to extend the mandate of UNIFIL for a further period of six months, the cost of maintaining the Force during that period would be limited to the monthly rate approved by the General Assembly.
22. As at 30 June 1998, unpaid assessments to the Special Account for UNIFIL for the period since its inception to 31 July 1999 amounted to $108.2 million. The total outstanding assessed contributions for all peacekeeping operations at that date amounted to $1,549.7 million.
23. During the past six months, the situation in the area remained volatile and continued to give cause for serious concern. The level of hostilities rose and civilians were again targeted, resulting in casualties. I appeal to all concerned to respect the non-combatant status of civilians.
24. UNIFIL did its best to limit the violence and to protect the civilian population. However, its ability to do is dependent on the parties. Regrettably, too often the commitments the parties have made in this regard were not honoured by their personnel in the area of operation. That UNIFIL was itself targeted and a member of the Force was killed and others were injured must be strongly condemned. The international status and security of United Nations personnel must be respected, as has been stressed repeatedly by the Security Council.
25. Notwithstanding the recent escalation of hostilities, there are positive signs. In June, Jezzin once again came under the full control of the Lebanese Government, and there is new hope that the same will become possible soon for the part of Lebanon that is still under Israeli control. I shall continue to follow developments closely and revert to the Security Council should there be any change in the situation.
26. The Permanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nations, in a letter addressed to me on 25 June 1999 (S/1999/720), conveyed his Government's request that the Security Council extend the mandate of UNIFIL for a further period of six months. While UNIFIL continues to be prevented from implementing the mandate contained in Security Council resolution 425 (1978), its contribution to stability and the protection it is able to afford the population of the area remain important. I therefore recommend that the Council respond positively to the request of the Government of Lebanon and extend the mandate of UNIFIL for another period of six months, until 31 January 2000.
27. In making this recommendation, I must again draw attention to the serious shortfall in the funding of the Force. At present, unpaid assessments amount to $108.2 million. This represents money owed to the Member States contributing the troops that make up the Force. I appeal to all Member States to pay their assessments promptly and in full and to clear all remaining arrears. I should like to express my gratitude to the Governments contributing troops to the Force, in particular those of developing countries, for their understanding and patience in these difficult circumstances.
28. In conclusion, I wish to pay tribute to Major-General Jioji Konousi Konrote and to the men and women under his command for the manner in which they have carried out their difficult and often dangerous task. Their discipline and bearing have been of a high order, reflecting credit on themselves and on their countries as well as on the United Nations.